Here’s News Nobody Wants


IMG_1930 Craig D. Cramer has just directed us to his Cornell Horticulture blog post about Late Blight disease observed in tomatoes and potatoes in the Northeast.

This is the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine, and it is apparently extremely contagious in wet weather like this super-rainy spring.

It arrived in Ireland in 1845 on ships from North America, and in the Northeast in 2009, possibly in containers of seedlings grown in the South.

I hate starting seedlings and every year, I swear I will never do it again.  This year, after babysitting carefully chosen varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants (including a Turkish orange variety) for two months under fluorescent lights and waiting, like a mature person, until May 31st to plant them–they were all wiped out in one night by a June frost.  GRRRRR!

But maybe start-your-own is really the way to go.  Because a summer without homegrown tomatoes is not a tragedy on the level of no potatoes for a population eating nothing but–but it is quite sad nonetheless.


  1. I just checked and my remote tomatoes and potatoes are fine. No sign of Late Blight. Maybe my way late start on the cucumbers due to repeated grasshopper removal of the seedlings could help avoid the cucumber wilt virus.

  2. One wonders if tomato cultivars developed outside No. America might have some resistance to the blight?

    You got my attention with your mention of a TURKISH TOMATO…

    As an aside here, it’s worth noting that the peoples of the Ottoman Empire embraced the New World tomato and pepper on first acquaintance (early 16th cent), while the Christian realms of Iberia and the Italian peninsula were very late to adopt these members of Solanaceae.

    For some discussion of vegetables and Italian cuisine in America and Italy, you might enjoy

    Meanwhile, Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean climates make tons of tomatoes (and those like me who feast upon them) very happy.

    I don’t believe I know the orange variety you mention, but I’ll be looking for it when I’m next in Turkey, later this summer or early fall, prior to our botanical tour in Western Anatolia.

    If you have a name for the variety or can send a digital photo of the seed packet, let me know; I’ll see if I can find you some more seeds. Better yet, come with us and explore the seed and plant market outside the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul!

    Cheers, Holly

    Holly (at) Hollychase (dot) com

  3. Late frosts and late tomato blight have nothing in common scientifically. Gardening is an art and science.

  4. Tibs, I wouldn’t panic. I haven’t seen anything alarming in my garden.

    Holly Chase, it was a Turkish orange eggplant that I started, not a tomato. I got the seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

  5. At leat here in the Albany region we are actually BEHIND 3.5 inches in rain. HOwever in the Clay muck of Athens/Greene County it is horrible with rain 25 out of 29 days thus far. We are 1.3 inches ahead for the month. This is important because June is the month when things really get growing in these parts especially this year.

    The TROLL

  6. All of our tomato plants are growing wonderfully so far and show no signs of late blight, thank goodness. I wonder, is there ever a point the plant can get to where you can say, “Phew! Got through that unscathed!” or will it be a matter of waiting it out and crossing our fingers the whole season? Honestly, we will be devastated if this gets our plants. We LIVE for our homemade salsa made from our homegrown tomatoes and peppers.

  7. Boy do I understand! This year has been awful up in Alberta – super late spring, cold nights (we’re still around 42 every night), frost (heck snow) in June, and my veggies are barely hanging on. As a first year gardener I’m almost discouraged, but figure things can only go up from here, right?

  8. Coldprairie, do not despair. Even the most experienced gardeners have lousy years, thanks to the vicissitudes of weather. And even the lousiest years ALWAYS deliver more food than anybody knows what to do with.

    Glass-half full is the right attitude. If the peppers and eggplants sulk, the lettuces and brassicas are happy.

  9. I used to be an IPM scout (that’s integrated pest management) for tomato farmers in SC.

    One of the many useful things I learned about that can’t-do-without-it-but-can-drive-you-to-distraction crop is that many of the diseases we see on tomotoes in our garden–esp. early blight–actually come from the greenhouses where the transplants are started. And once they get in your soil, you’ll be stuck with them indefinitely. So best to start your own or to buy transplants from a trusted local grower.

    In sub-tropical and rainy SC, late blight was rare to non-existent. I think it likes the cooler weather, where early blight likes it hot.

    And if you use soaker hoses, the disease won’t spread as much as when you use sprinklers–which splash the fungus spores around.

    Finally, if you do see the disease–scouting every other day is a good practice–pull the leaves with the either blight and trash them, so they aren’t sowing more spores.

    If all else fails, rig up an big umbrella!

    Frank (

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